Barry Kent MacKayArt by Barry Kent MacKay
Art and Photo Presentation

In this section are copies of original works of art. All of them are dedicated to helping us live according to unconditional love and compassion, which is the foundation of our peaceful means of bringing true and lasting peace to all of God's creatures, whether they are human beings or other animals.

Rough-legged Hawk (Buteo lagopus sanctijohnnis)

Rough-legged Hawk
(Artwork - 117)
Rough-legged Hawk (Buteo lagopus sanctijohnnis)

The Rough-legged Hawk, known to English speakers outside of North America as the Rough-legged Buzzard, is found across the high latitudes of the northern hemisphere, breeding in Alaska, across northern and parts of central Canada, Scandinavia and northern Eurasia. But they are quite migratory, and in winter may be seen in any of the contiguous states of the U.S. as far south as northern Mexico and as far north as southern and central Canada and across much of central Europe and Asia.

Here in North America, most people see it in winter (since most people live south of its nesting range) and the birds most often seen are immature. There are two colour morphs, dark and light, the latter by far the more common. And the immature light morph Rough-legged Hawk is quite different from the less often encountered adult light morph, which, in turn, is very highly variable and often resembles the Common Buteo (Buteo buteo) of Eurasia, but has the feathered tarsi (the part of the “leg” that joins toes to ankle) that give it its common name, and the scientific name, “lagopus” which more or less translates into “rabbit-foot”. Unlike the younger birds, with a tail that has a distinctive white base and very broad, dark terminal band, the tail of the adult is banded, with the dark bands growing narrower as they reach the body, at the base of the tail. Similarly, young light morph birds tend to show a broad, dark band across the belly, which is high variable, or even, as in the bird I painted, missing in the adult, replaced with bars.

I have seldom seen the light morph portrayed, either in paintings or photographs, in the fully mature adult plumage, and when I saw such birds at the nest in northern Canada for the first time I was struck by their unusual, to me, appearance. Examining specimens at Toronto’s Royal Ontario Museum I found one that I thought was quite spectacular in appearance, like the ones I had so rarely seen in the wild in winter, but had seen in above the tree line in summer, and I used it as a model for plumage colour and pattern. And since these birds breed all the way up into the high arctic, far above the tree line, I decided to create an imaginary background evoking my own memories of shorelines in the far north.

I have shown the subspecies that is found across most of North America, B. b. sanctijohannis, which is the smallest and darkest subspecies (of which either three or four are recognized, depending on taxonomic decisions).
Food is normally small mammals such as voles and lemmings, but also it will take rabbits, hares, muskrats, birds and many other small vertebrate animals, large insects and, perhaps especially when food is scarce, even carrion.

Relative to its overall size, this species has a small beak and small feet. Since these parts are not feathered, they allow heat loss and so, like the feathered tarsus, a small foot and beak is an obvious adaptation to the cold climate of their home range. Their weight ranges from about 600 grams (a little over 1 pound) to about 1660 grams (about 3 pounds), with females distinctly larger, on average, than the males.

The painting is nearly life-size, 30 X 24 inches in size, and painted in acrylics on compressed hardboard.

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Copyright © Barry Kent MacKay
Barry describes himself as a Canadian artist/writer/naturalist.
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